08 May 2007

Opening up - profiling your team

Q: I want to introduce the people in our team and publish their profiles in a question and answer format. They are interesting people, from all around the world. But boring questions produce boring answers. What do you suggest?

A: the best result will still require you to add a little value through editing. By all means ask your colleagues to describe their mission and role, and then edit it down; or tell them to do it in 100 words.

Their name and title are the best way to start, plus their country of origin (or nationality).
I suggest you also list their age - it is sometimes a cause of hysteria, but it can add some flavour!
The next questions are where you want them to open up a little and be more colorful. There are all sorts of ways to approach it. I have listed some suggestions.

Some people will answer all of your questions, but if you are worried about a lack of response, you could suggest that they pick and choose those they are more comfortable with. Or you can send them a selection of questions from a larger list.

You can also choose to publish only the answers that you find most interesting.
Newspaper columns use this approach. Readers think the questions change each week, but really the editors are just choosing the most interesting answers from a long list of standard questions.
Asking personal questions will be more revealing. Sometimes the trick to get people to open up is to ask the question in a more humorous way or encourage them to make a clever remark (those who have seen funny responses in the past will tend to follow the pattern, so start by profiling the joker in your pack).

Here are some ideas for questions, in no particular order.
In brackets are explanations of the questions; these are not for the recipients, but you could provide some comments, if needed.
  • What was your scariest moment so far? (i.e. give us a story from your experiences here)
  • How do you relax? (i.e. tell us about your personality)
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? (some may quip: 'the alarm', or 'breakfast' etc.)
  • What don't you understand? (maybe they won't understand the question!)
  • Why did you sign up? (motivations)
  • Did you think it would be like this? (possible negative reflections)
  • What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong (i.e. tell us something that would inspire others).
  • What or who has been the most helpful to your work? (i.e. colleagues, tools, institutions)
  • What's your favourite book / movie / website? (i.e. sources of inspiration)
  • Who was the greatest role model in your life? (e.g. 'my mother')
  • Who do you think would inspire others? (who is a great role model? e.g. 'Mother Teresa')
  • What do you think of the local food? - or - What food do you miss from home? (explores cultural differences)
  • How do you keep in shape? (or 'keep healthy')
  • Who have you left at home? (who is in your family/significant others, etc.)
  • What will you do when you are finished here? (plans for the future/ambitions)


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